Rams Enter 2002 With Optimism

A season ago, Colorado State's football team began the season - including spring practice - with a mostly experienced squad except at quarterback. A year later, much has changed about the Rams' squad, but head coach Sonny Lubick says he carries a great deal of optimism into the season.

The Rams begin spring drills Saturday morning at 10 a.m. on the practice fields south of Moby Arena. The second of 15 spring workouts (10 in full pads) is set for Sunday at noon. Colorado State's spring workouts conclude with an intrasquad spring game April 20 at Hughes Stadium.

"I'm very optimistic about this team," said Lubick Thursday during a news conference to preview spring practices. "I think we have a lot of talent on this football team. I think it's a young football team, but we have some depth, which is where our program is. I like the attitude, as well as the strength and conditioning that's went on to this point. The players have taken to the team concept again."

Lubick welcomes back 55 lettermen and 15 starters from a team that finished 7-5 a season ago and won the first-ever New Orleans Bowl.

"Last year we had an experienced football team except at quarterback," Lubick said. "This year, we should be better at quarterback just due to experience."

Bradlee Van Pelt started the last nine games of the season and led the Rams to five wins in the team's final six games including a win in the bowl game.

"I'd have to say Bradlee really improved and did a heckuva job at the end of the year," said Lubick of Van Pelt. "Going in (to spring workouts), he's our guy. He'd have to really mess things up to lose it. We're also sold on the fact that Justin Holland will get looks and we'll get him ready to play. We're going to make it so that he gets a chance to play."

The 10th-year head coach also said this spring will be an important evaluation period for he and his staff.

"Spring is a fun time for the coaches. You don't have to worry about breaking down video and getting ready for a game. It's a time to evaluate our team. We have some guys who have a great chance to - if they don't start - play a lot for us. That's our goal: not to worry about schemes. Look at personnel and plug them in.."

Lubick also said a handful of players will switch positions this spring.

David Vickers, a two-year starter at linebacker who battled knee injuries last season is moving to strong safety.

Rahsaan Sanders, formerly a running back, missed last year due to a hamstring injury and is moving to free safety.

Andre Sommersell has moved to linebacker from defensive end, while Kelesio Howard is now playing offensive line after having played defensively.

Mike Vomhof, who as a true freshman was a backup running back a year ago, has moved to defensive end.

Lubick is also excited to have Cecil Sapp back on the field. He began a string of injury problems last spring after having led the Mountain West Conference in rushing with 841 yards in 2000, then winning Liberty Bowl MVP honors when he gained 160 yards in a win over Louisville in Memphis to conclude the year. But last spring, he broke his ankle. When he returned to fall drills with the ankle healed, he suffered a hamstring pull. When that healed, he was diagnosed as having a benign tumor in his heel that was surgically removed and knocked him from the lineup for the entire season.

"Cecil is good to go," said Lubick. "He had a great off-season. He's as strong and physical as he's ever been. Now, it's just a case of him catching up."

Running back figures to be a strength for the Rams. Henri Childs led the team with 841 yards last season including 237 in a game at BYU. He and Sapp are both seniors.

Colorado State in 2002 plays the first 13-game regular-season schedule in school history. The Rams open the season Aug. 22 in the Jim Thorpe Classic against the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

The schedule includes five teams that played in bowl games a year ago and for who were ranked in the final top 25 polls and had a 43-10 combined record. Three of the teams won their respective conference titles.

"I've always dreamed about bringing a program along to a level that is higher than it has been. You have to take the risk. As I look at our players, our coaches, I figure let's take a chance.

"I think the program has come a long way. We've won a lot of games, and this is a way to get more national attention. It's going to be a real challenge for us."

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